The FINANCIAL — Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) on August 11 reported a business operating profit (BOP) for the six months ended June 30, 2016 of USD 2.2 billion, down 2% from the prior year period.
Net income attributable to shareholders (NIAS) of USD 1.6 billion was down 22% due to a lower level of realized capital gains, restructuring charges related to the Group’s turnaround plans and a higher effective tax rate.
Group Chief Executive Officer Mario Greco said: “We have made significant progress over the last six months, with consistent improvement in our underlying performance in the second quarter, in the context of an ongoing challenging market environment. Reinvigorated underwriting discipline in General Insurance has resulted in an improved attritional loss ratio. Our efficiency program is beginning to deliver results and we have taken steps to strengthen our geographic footprint by enhancing our position in the U.S., Malaysia and Australia while exiting several positions where we saw limited potential.”
“Both Global Life and Farmers have continued the positive momentum of previous quarters. The capital position is resilient and cash remittances for the three years to end-2016 are still on track to exceed USD 10 billion. We are confident that by continuing our improvement actions, we will be able to deliver satisfactory returns to our shareholders in 2016 and in the following years.”
“As we prepare for the next strategy cycle, we have already taken steps to simplify our management and operating structures, which will allow us to better serve our customers and respond more easily to external developments.”
During the period, Zurich completed the acquisition of Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS), one of the leading providers of crop insurance in the U.S., and MAA Takaful in Malaysia. It is in the process of acquiring Macquarie Group’s retail life insurance protection business in Australia. The sales of the general insurance businesses in Taiwan and Morocco were announced in June, and the sale of its operations in South Africa and Botswana was announced in July as the Group continues to optimize its global footprint.
In June, the Group announced that it will adopt a simpler organization and management structure to make the company more agile and accountable while bringing management closer to customers.
General Insurance BOP increased by USD 40 million to USD 1.2 billion, up 3% in U.S. dollar terms or 10% in local currency, as an improvement in the underlying result offset a decrease in the net investment result and a higher level of catastrophe and weather-related events. The result benefited from currency gains of USD 92 million, according to Zurich.
Gross written premiums and policy fees (GWP) increased by 2% in local currency terms, boosted by the acquisition of RCIS, but fell by 1% in U.S. dollar terms, largely due to the re-underwriting to improve performance announced last year. Those actions continued to deliver benefits. Notably, the current accident year loss ratio improved by 3 percentage points compared to the full year 2015, while the expense ratio decreased by 0.8 percentage points to 30.9%.
Global Life BOP was USD 667 million, down 1% in U.S. dollar terms but up 7% on a local currency basis, as gains in local currency in Latin America and EMEA were offset by a lower contribution from North America, which saw a higher level of claims than in the prior year period. The Latin American business benefited from higher volumes, notably in Brazil, currency gains and increased investment returns, while profitability in EMEA was helped by an improved investment margin, expense efficiencies and a one-off benefit in the UK.
Gross written premiums, policy fees and insurance deposits increased by 4% to USD 15.4 billion, or by 9% in local currency, helped by increased sales of corporate risk and savings in the UK, individual savings in Spain and protection products through Zurich Santander.
Farmers BOP was down 6% at USD 678 million as strong gains at Farmers Management Services were offset by a loss at Farmers Re, which reported a business operating loss of USD 19 million largely due to weather-related claims in Texas during the period and continuing challenges in the auto-insurance sector.
BOP at Farmers Management Services was 6% higher at USD 697 million, mainly driven by higher management fees as the positive growth trend at the Farmers Exchanges5 continued. Farmers Management Services’ managed gross earned premium margin was unchanged at 7.0%.
The Non-Core Businesses, which comprise run-off portfolios that are managed with the intention of proactively reducing risk and releasing capital, reported a BOP of USD 32 million, an increase of USD 23 million from the prior year period. The bulk of those gains came from the release of long-term reserves as a consequence of a buy-back program for a variable annuity product in the U.S.
Other Operating Businesses recorded an operating loss for the half year of USD 388 million, compared to a loss of USD 330 million in the prior year period. This was primarily due to less favorable foreign exchange developments.
The net investment result on Group investments, which includes net investment income, realized net capital gains and losses and impairments, contributed USD 3.7 billion to the Group’s total revenues for the first six months of 2016, compared with USD 4.0 billion in the prior year period. This represents a net return of 1.9% (not annualized). The total return on Group investments including unrealized gains was 4.7% (not annualized), compared with 0.1% in the prior year period, mainly driven by a strong performance in the fixed income portfolio as a result of falling yields. The Group maintained its resilient capital position. At the end of June, the estimated Zurich Economic Capital Model (Z-ECM) ratio stood at 107%, within its target range. This is down from year end because of financial market movements and the inclusion of RCIS.
Shareholders’ equity rose 1% to USD 31.6 billion from the retention of net income in the period, net unrealized gains on investment and after charging USD 2.6 billion for the dividend of CHF 17 per share approved at the Annual General Meeting on March 30, 2016.